Going Paperless – The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth - Part II

Scanning Your Backfile and Day Forward Documents – It’s Day and Night

In the preceding blog post we discussed the economics of scanning your backfile.  My conclusion is that costs usually exceed benefits so unless there is a compelling reason to invest in this conversion – continue to store the existing paper backfile.  You will work this archive down in size over time as you apply your records policy.

A) Benefits of Scanning
On the other hand, scanning on a day-forward basis can often yield significant benefits especially when implementing workflow.  These benefits include:
  • No more adding paper to your backfile archive or using office space to store paper since you can scan incoming documents and – in most cases – destroy the paper version.
  • Storing and retrieving electronic documents is more efficient (faster, more flexible) and less expensive than storing and retrieving paper.  
  • If your paper records have been converted with OCR software, you can easily search through an entire document library for specific words or phrases in seconds.  This is something you simply cannot accomplish with paper documents.
  • Its easy to back up your electronic documents.  Ever try xeroxing an entire file cabinet of paper to make a back up copy? 
  • Its easier to secure your electronic documents by securing the server , hard drive, or database storing the documents.
  • It is possible to automate and improve existing workflow and implement new workflows to manage electronic documents.   Day-forward documents are the new paper documents received by the firm.  There may also be internally generated paper documents – but these should be exceptions since electronic documents should rarely be converted to paper.   In either case, the electronic version of these documents can be managed in computerized workflow processes.

B) Applying Computerized Workflow Management
By their very nature, day-forward documents are at the very beginning of a workflow in your firm – whether it’s a letter, resume, invoice, expense report, medical authorization, or any other type of document.  In electronic format, incoming documents can be routed or re-routed and tracked through an automated workflow process which will mean collapsing a process from days or weeks to hours or minutes – simply by applying automation of the process.  More about this in my next installment.

Scanning and Intelligent Scanning

So let’s buy a scanner or two and start scanning!  Sounds pretty simple but realize that this is just the first of two parts to the equation.  The right scanning hardware is vital but the right scan-capture solution can make your scanning process much more intelligent.

A) Lets go Shopping
So let’s buy a scanner or two and start scanning!   Before you buy anything – do a bit of planning and consider the following:   
  • Identify existing workflow bottlenecks – if you can spot them then they’re probably pretty severe so focus there first.  You’ll see quick payoffs this way.
  • Figure out how much paper you need to scan every day. 
  • Calculate scanned pages per hour and match your scanner capabilities to this requirement.
  • Calculate the amount of electronic storage space required. 
  • Consider who will do the scanning. 
  • Consider whether scanning is centralized or distributed.  Or both.
  • Determine what scan-capture software you’ll be using.  Not all scanners work with all scan-capture software solutions – although many are interchangeable.  Double-check!
·         Determine which features you must have or would like to have in a scanner.  Speed and cost go together and some features may greatly enhance the scanning process.  Example: Duplex scanners can simultaneously scan the front and back of a page but this may not be necessary because many documents are one-sided. 
Example: Built-in OCR (optical character recognition) software can produce searchable files which is a tremendous time-saver when retrieving electronic documents. 
Example: Bates Numbering can be added during the scanning process. 

B) Intelligent Scanning – Scan-Capture Software makes Your Scanner Smart
Now that you have the perfect scanner(s) selected, turn your attention to making the scanning process intelligent.  Scan-capture software can “read” information on the scanned page and create metadata (data about the documents) during the scanning process.  With metadata it is possible to feed your scanned documents into a workflow solution, document management solution, and ultimately a records management solution often with little or no human intervention for further coding.  Intelligent scanning takes you from “simply scanning” to “automating and managing” electronic documents in your organization.  The benefits can be quite remarkable.

Intelligent Scanning and Workflow

In our next installment, we’ll talk about how to make the scanning process smart – and discuss a few examples of automating what you’re already doing with paper – only better.